Weekly Review — January 19, 2010, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Caught in the Web, 1860]

Caught in the Web, 1860.

An earthquake registering 7.0 on the Richter scale hit Haiti, with an epicenter about 10 miles from Port-au-Prince. Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said that 70,000 bodies had been found so far, and Lt. Gen. P. K. Keen, a top commander of the U.S. military effort to bring aid and maintain order on the island, said that estimates of 150,000 to 200,000 dead were “a start point”; those estimates would make the toll four to five times that of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake that inspired Voltaire’s Candide. The body of Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, archbishop of Haiti, was discovered in the ruins of the archdiocesan offices. Pat Robertson blamed the earthquake on a pact that Haitians allegedly made with Satan during their 1791 revolt against “you know, Napoleon the Third and whatever”; David Brooks cited poverty as the deeper problem, linking it to voodoo. Miami’s Royal Caribbean cruise line, which had been “optimistic” about 2010 profits, continued service to its beach resort at Labadee, on the island’s unaffected north shore. “We welcome the continuation of the positive economic benefits that the cruise ship calls to Labadee contribute to our country,” said Haiti’s special envoy to the United Nations, Leslie Voltaire.Miami HeraldNYTNYTWSJBBCWPNYTBBCWSJDer SpiegelCNNNYTTravel Daily NewsMiami Herald

Congress’s Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission began hearing testimony from leaders of surviving American banks. “The irony here is that it’s as if there was an earthquake,” said commission chair Phil Angelides, “and the only buildings standing today are the buildings that were at the epicenter of the earthquake.” Angelides compared the hearings with the Pecora hearings of the 1930s, at which J. P. Morgan, Jr., appeared with a female midget in his lap. “Not to be funny about it,” JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon told the FCIC, “but my daughter asked me… ‘What’s the financial crisis,’ and I said, ‘Well, it’s something that happens every five to seven years.'”CBSUSA TodayWSJThe deputy finance minister of Yemen announced plans to open a stock market; it was unclear how the failing state would enforce investment laws. “Before you build a state,” observed one Yemeni analyst, “you cannot organize a regulator.” ReutersYemeni officials claimed to have killed six suspected Al Qaeda militants in airstrikes near the Saudi Arabian border; Al Qaeda said that the victims were “brothers” rather than “holy warriors” and were only injured in the attack. WPA motorcycle bomb killed Iranian physicist Masoud Ali Mohammadi in Tehran; an opposition group blamed Hezbollah, but Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described the method used as “Zionist.” NYTReuters via NYTAFP via YahooPoliticoNYTScott Ritter, former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, was charged with masturbating in front of a webcam for a police officer posing as a 15-year-old girl. LAT

One-hundred-four-year-old former Coney Island strongman Joseph Rollino, who reportedly bent a quarter with his fingers on his last birthday, was hit by a minivan with a defective horn in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and died. NY PostAn airplane flying a banner to celebrate the one-year anniversary of US Airways Flight 1549’s successful emergency landing on the Hudson River made an emergency landing on Staten Island’s Fresh Kills landfill. Atlanta Journal-CourierA sheep in Turkey gave birth to a lamb with a human face,AFP via Daily Telegraphand the remains of five Native Americans from Tierra del Fuego, Chile, kidnapped in 1881 by a German animal trader and exhibited in zoos as “Savages from the Land of Fire,” were returned to Chile. Der SpiegelAustrian scientists stopped burying live pigs in snow and monitoring their deaths. NYTFrench New Wave filmmaker Eric Rohmer died, GuardianNYTand scientists found that watching four hours of television a day raises the risk of fatal heart disease by 80 percent. BloombergArt Clokey, the creator of Gumby, died. “Gumby is a symbol of the spark of divinity in each of us,” wrote Clokey, a seminary dropout who studied with Serbian avant-garde filmmaker Slavko Vorkapić. “Eddie Murphy instinctively picked up on this when he asserted, ??I??m Gumby, dammit.??”WSJNPR

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The city was not beautiful; no one made that claim for it. At the height of summer, people in suits, shellacked by the sun, moved like harassed insects to avoid the concentrated light. There was a civil war–like fracture in America—the president had said so—but little of it showed in the capital. Everyone was polite and smooth in their exchanges. The corridor between Dupont Circle and Georgetown was like the dream of Yugoslav planners: long blocks of uniform earth-toned buildings that made the classical edifices of the Hill seem the residue of ancestors straining for pedigree. Bunting, starched and perfectly ruffled in red-white-and-blue fans, hung everywhere—from air conditioners, from gutters, from statues of dead revolutionaries. Coming from Berlin, where the manual laborers are white, I felt as though I was entering the heart of a caste civilization. Untouchables in hard hats drilled into sidewalks, carried pylons, and ate lunch from metal boxes, while waiters in restaurants complimented old respectable bobbing heads on how well they were progressing with their rib eyes and iceberg wedges.

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The second-worst thing about cancer chairs is that they are attached to televisions. Someone somewhere is always at war with silence. It’s impossible to read, so I answer email, or watch some cop drama on my computer, or, if it seems unavoidable, explore the lives of my nurses. A trip to Cozumel with old girlfriends, a costume party with political overtones, an advanced degree on the internet: they’re all the same, these lives, which is to say that the nurses tell me nothing, perhaps because amid the din and pain it’s impossible to say anything of substance, or perhaps because they know that nothing is precisely what we both expect. It’s the very currency of the place. Perhaps they are being excruciatingly candid.

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When Demétrio Martins was ready to preach, he pushed a joystick that angled the seat of his wheelchair forward, slowly lifting him to a standing position. Restraints held his body upright. His atrophied right arm lay on an armrest, and with his left hand, he put a microphone to his lips. “Proverbs, chapter fourteen, verse twelve,” he said. “ ‘There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is . . .’ ”

The congregation finished: “ ‘Death.’ ”

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On December 7, 2016, a drone departed from an Amazon warehouse in the United Kingdom, ascended to an altitude of four hundred feet, and flew to a nearby farm. There it glided down to the front lawn and released from its clutches a small box containing an Amazon streaming device and a bag of popcorn. This was the first successful flight of Prime Air, Amazon’s drone delivery program. If instituted as a regular service, it would slash the costs of “last-mile delivery,” the shortest and most expensive leg of a package’s journey from warehouse to doorstep. Drones don’t get into fender benders, don’t hit rush-hour traffic, and don’t need humans to accompany them, all of which, Amazon says, could enable it to offer thirty-minute delivery for up to 90 percent of domestic shipments while also reducing carbon emissions. After years of testing, Amazon wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration last summer to ask for permission to conduct limited commercial deliveries with its drones, attaching this diagram to show how the system would work. (Amazon insisted that we note that the diagram is not to scale.) Amazon is not the only company working toward such an automated future—­UPS, FedEx, Uber, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, have similar programs—­but its plans offer the most detailed vision of what seems to be an impending reality, one in which parce­l-toting drones are a constant presence in the sky, doing much more than just delivering popcorn.

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Every year in Lusk, Wyoming, during the second week of July, locals gather to reenact a day in 1849 when members of a nearby band of Sioux are said to have skinned a white man alive. None of the actors are Native American. The white participants dress up like Indians and redden their skin with body paint made from iron ore.

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